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Cupcake wine review 2015

winereview

cupcake wine review 2015Cupcake Moscato 2013 ($10, purchased, 9.5%)

Cupcake Red Velvet 2012 ($10, purchased, 13.5%)

When the Wine Curmudgeon finishes a day of wine judging, he usually gets a beer or glass of whiskey to cut the taste of the sweet wines that we judge at the end of each round. After tasting the two wines for the Cupcake wine review 2015, I needed a couple of belts of Wild Turkey.

It’s not so much that the Red Velvet, the legendary Cupcake sweet red blend, and the Italian moscato were sweet, which I was prepared for. Rather, they were sweet in that cynical, Big Wine, better living through chemistry way that drives me crazy. Sweet doesn’t mean bad; the best German rieslings are some of the world’s great wines.

But wines made to be sweet for sweetness’ sake? No thank you — and the moscato went past even that to sweet tea territory. There was a little orange-ish moscato aroma, and then some sweetness. And more sweetness.  And, in case you missed it, even more sweetness. No acidity, no freshness, just lots of sugar. Assuming my math is correct, it may be as much as 10 percent residual sugar, about one-third higher than a typical Old World moscato, and with one-third more alcohol. In this, as my old pal Tom Johnson noted, it’s Boone’s Farm for Baby Boomer grandchildren (with the resultant sugar-fueled hangover).

The Red Velvet, though even more a product of post-modern winemaking, was more like wine than the moscato. It had flavors — a sort of cherryish, chocolate thing — as well as tannins and acidity. There wasn’t much of either of the latter, but enough so that you could drink it and not go into a sugar coma. Serve it chilled with hamburgers and it’s drinkable in a way the moscato isn’t, even for those of us who prefer more balanced sweet wines.

It’s also why wine needs ingredient labels. Cupcake says Red Velvet has zinfandel, merlot, and petite sirah, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a couple of other grapes, as well as MegaPurple grape juice concentrate for added color. Plus, what Cupcake describes as a “unique oak regimen” smells and tastes like caramel-flavored fake oak.

So one yes, the Red Velvet, and one no, the moscato. In this case, .500 is not a bad average.

For more on Cupcake wine:
Cupcake wine review 2014
Cupcake wine review 2013
Cupcake wine review 2012

 

Cupcake wine review 2014

winereview

Cupcake wine review 2014Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%)

Cupcake Pinot Grigio 2013 ($9, purchased, 12.5%)

Whenever the Wine Curmudgeon reviews Cupcake wines, I always end up writing as much about the brand and the company that owns Cupcake as I do about the wines. That’s because Cupcake may be the most fascinating wine brand in the world today, where what’s in the bottle doesn’t matter nearly as much as how the wine is marketed. It’s genius, actually, all those red velvet cake descriptors propelling the brand to national awareness without any help from the Winestream Media or scores.

Who else would have the nerve to market a wine called Chloe, with a suggested price of $17, targeting “weddings, birthdays and other celebratory gatherings” without any hint of what it tastes like? Or that calling it Chloe has more than a little to do with the name’s popularity for baby girls over the past decade?

Which doesn’t mean Cupcake wines are bad. They inhabit the region between the boring grocery store stuff and the best cheap wine. In this, think of the chain restaurant business, where Cupcake is an upscale steakhouse like Capital Grille or Fleming’s, and the rest of it is Red Lobster and Texas Roadhouse. The food is better at the former, but in the end it’s still chain food, and these wines, no matter how much Cupcake dresses them up, are still chain wines.

The cabernet, from California, is full, fruity, and almost balanced, with soft tannins, cherry fruit, and an odd sort of chocolate flavor. It’s not quite sweet, though the residual sugar is higher than in most red wines. It’s much better than I expected it to be, and certainly drinkable. If you’re going to make a focus group wine, this is the way to do it.

The Italian-made pinot grigio, on the other hand, is surprisingly disappointing, given how easy it is to make cheap, palatable pinot grigio. It’s oddly disjointed, with a dollop of sweet white fruit in the middle, a quality that doesn’t go with its traditional, Italian-style quinine approach that makes up the rest of the wine and is so popular among women of a certain age. My guess is that the dollop is there to sweeten the wine in line with Cupcake’s flavor profile, a winemaking trick that is cheaper or easier or more legal than adding sugar.

So one yes and one no. Assuming, of course, you can’t find a better $10 wine, which isn’t all that difficult. The labels just aren’t as much fun to read.

For more on Cupcake wine:
Cupcake wine review 2013
Cupcake wine review 2012

Cupcake wine review 2013

cupcake wine review 2013The Wine Curmudgeon has discovered the flaw in the Cupcake Vineyards marketing juggernaut. It’s almost impossible to find the wines in a store, whether grocery or wine, that has any kind of inventory. It took me 10 minutes to locate the two bottles for this review, scuttling between aisles at my local Kroger; would a less determined consumer have done as much?

Maybe they would. Cupcake is the post-modern wine business success story, eclipsing even Barefoot and its millions and millions of cases. Three years after it started, Cupcake was named wine brand of the year, and its sales increased 67 percent in 2012, according to one market research firm.

Cupcake, as Blake Gray wrote last year, approaches wine from a different perspective. It markets its brand before it markets its products, so its customers don’t buy on varietal, like pinot noir, or region, like France, the way most of us do. Rather, its customers buy Cupcake first and worry about varietal and region later.

In this, the wine is marketed almost like women’s clothing, where Cupcake is the designer that shoppers look for before they look for a specific item like a dress or a skirt. That’s why Target has long offered designer collections, whether from Isaac Mizrahi, Jason Wu, or Phillip Lim.

None of this, of course, takes into account whether the wine offers value. That’s why I’m here – this year’s take is after the jump:

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